I’ve seen it a lot – church members who get angry at someone and then stay that way. I’ve seen people refuse to talk to each other at church, as if their silence is a godly adult reaction to disagreement. My heart breaks when I see such reactions because I’ve seen bitterness consume people for years. Here’s why that happens:
- The enemy wants you to stay unforgiving so your prayers are hindered. Jesus’ words were clear here: “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your wrongdoing” (Mark 11:25). Satan delights in anything that harms your own walk with God and halts your prayers.
- Your bitterness is sin. When you stay angry and unforgiving, you are living in disobedience. That sin has a way of becoming a foothold, and then a stronghold – even while you deceive yourself that your continual anger is just.
- Your stronghold of bitterness can quickly become an idol. If you choose to stay bitter when God demands a change of heart, you are choosing to serve your emotions over God’s command. You may not have a carved idol sitting on a shelf in your living room, but you’re just as much an idolater.
- You carry the bitterness wherever you go. Even when you separate yourself from the person who’s offended you, the bitterness resides in you—and affects the rest of your life.
- Your bitterness affects every other relationship you have. Few of us are so intentional and strong that we can compartmentalize every relationship. Your bitterness affects all your relationships, even if only by others seeing your continual anger.
- Even stifled bitterness is still present in you. You may have pressed it down, but all someone needs to do is “push the right button” in you—and all that anger rises to the surface again. It’s still there, slowly eating a hole into your soul.
- Our sinful egos naturally protect our “right” perspectives. Few people want to admit their own failures, especially when someone else has clearly been in the wrong. So, we refuse to forgive rather than even suggest that we may have been wrong.
- Bitterness opens the door to other sin. That’s just naturally the case—one unforsaken sin dulls our senses to the work of the Holy Spirit, and other sin begins to invade our lives.
If you are holding on to bitterness today, I encourage you to repent and ask God to change your heart. Holding on to bitterness is not worth the cost. And, if you’re not sure if you need to forgive someone, check out this post.